I’ve been hunched over my handles for ten hours and the last four-hour in pitch darkness but for the small round-red tail light of the Enfield bullet. My headlight serves more as a cautionary light to vehicles coming in the opposite than guide me across even ten feet. It’s like being on a manic ride in a theme park, sudden bright lights, followed by a rush of wind and then sudden darkness. Red and silver spots float around my eyes; little fire flies that die with the first hint of another bright passing light. We grossly underestimated the ride in the dark, made a clerical mistake of choosing a state highway to get to Bangalore from Shimoga, this highway turned out to be a double lane road with trucks and buses hurtling across with blinding high beams and utter callousness towards us nimble two wheelers. Several weeks later, when the euphoria of the ride had died, I looked up the route on google maps and realized a small detour via Chitradurga would have made our lives a lot easier, it was an additional seventeen kilometers and meant we would have ridden the Bangalore-Mumbai Highway back to Bangalore. The difference? Tolled six lane highway, lit up like a Christmas tree all the way to home sweet home with a reduced risk of getting running over and no freakish invisible speed breakers. But the ride was sweet along with learning a ton of lessons.
Learning lessons and drawing parallels, philosophical yes, but those little lessons learnt don’t come printed in handbooks, it’s on the road you learn and relearn. Ride one to Coorg, learnt never to wear briefs on a long ride, bums will be war-torn with red welts and no, Vaseline doesn’t help, boxers is the answer and bums are thankful. Lesson two, never carry backpacks, even if it weighs a feather, after sixty miles, that feather will weigh a ton and your shoulders will be screaming sore. Lessons learnt on this ride, never ever ride into the night fatigued. We started from Bangalore on a cool overcast November evening at seven and rode to Hassan, a ride of four hours in the dark, no challenges. But on the return leg, we took this experience as the benchmark and conveniently chose to forget that we had already rode two hundred kilometers for six hours, four hours into the dark and the fatigue checked in and we were in a constant state of panic. Panic of miss judging a corner, panic of going through a pothole and getting irritated with your riding buddy for no apparent reason and I was rubbed off when Adrian slowed to a stall and pulled over with an ember from the cigarette in his eye.
I still wonder how he managed to get ember into his eye, riding a motorcycle and smoking at the same time and getting unlucky at that exact moment. I go over and check it out; I have fears of seeing a blotch of black where fire made contact to the eye, and fears of Adrian being unable to see the bony finger that I’m pointing at his eye. But the eye seems fine, just the ash from the cigarette finding its way to the eye. Five more minutes and we are good to go and hit the road again. It’s cold, we are tired and hungry and it’s just the two of us on two motorcycles and we’ve got long used to the stares from people in cars. You’d see motorcycles during daylight on highways but not too many on a winter midnight in a remote part of the country.